Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… March 2020

Hello in March. Any day now the southern Michigan snow will vanish. Spring is upon us. So far, the coronavirus is not.

Join 810+ higher education professionals on the Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Check my last post to see higher education’s best task-oriented alumni relations site. Request membership at

No travel required for this April 22 online “Higher Ed Content Conference” from Karine Joly at HigherEdExperts. Discounted registration may still be available until March 13. Details of 10 minute sessions by 12 speakers are at 2020 Higher Ed Content Conference.

Registration is open for the August 5 eduWeb Digital Summit at Snowbird Resort, Utah, including a new Leadership Summit for “higher education executives.” Program and early discount details at eduWeb Digital Summit.

Improving the marketing power of your website? Believe in “continuous quality improvement”? Find out what potential students like/dislike about your site before you make changed. Feedback in 5 days on 13 quality points with Gerry McGovern’s unique Customer Centric Index (CCI) survey approach.

Follow along with 7,300+ people who get my daily marketing updates on Twitter at

Forward this newsletter to a friend. Only email required here to subscribe for a personal copy.

And now, here are your March marketing news and notes.
Cartoon of the Month: “What is digital transformation?”

How might people on your campus respond if you asked them to define “digital transformation”?

Marketing cartoonist Tom Fishbourne tells us in funny fashion that the answer differs greatly depending on who you ask. And if that’s the case, forward progress is unlikely. Ask the question on your campus after you visit present and past cartoons.
Merit-Aid for Student Recruitment: 16 Top Spending Public Universities

Once upon a time it was private sector colleges providing merit-based financial aid to students whether they needed it or not. The discounting goal was to attract student who otherwise would not attend.

Now more and more public universities are investing in merit aid, often to attract out-of-state students who otherwise would not attend. A report from New America tracks the increase from 2001 to 2017. Spending has increased at 16 universities by more than $30 million, ranging from University of Alabama at $124 million to Florida International University at $31 million.

Check the spending increases at 14 other universities at “How Enrollment Management at the Merit-Aid Arms Race are Derailing Public Higher Education.”

When you finish with this, read Jon Boeckenstedt’s review of “merit” and “need” aid inspired by this article in this Twitter thread,
Social Media Marketing Power: YouTube

As you allocate your social media marketing resources this year, consider this: 81 percent of 15 to 25-year-olds use YouTube. Overall, the younger your age the more likely you are to be a YouTube user.

More marketing worthy stats from Hootsuite (and a link to “The Complete Guide to YouTube Marketing)  at “23 YouTube Statistics that Matter to Marketers in 2020.”
Concordia University Closing: A Lesson in Online Marketing Expectations

Concordia University (Portland, Oregon) just announced it was closing, to the surprise of many. A prime reason appears to be a failed experiment in cooperation with a 3rd party financial partner re revenue expectations from expanding online programs.

If your campus is contemplating online program expansion as a financial life-line, mark as required reading the Inside Higher Ed article “What led Concordia Portland to Close?”
Free College Tuition: A Pew Research Center Report

How strong is support for free college tuition?

Support levels vary by party affiliation, age, ethnicity, and education level.
Overall, 63 percent of adults favor tuition free college tuition. And 37 percent strongly favor it.

For details on how different groups vary from one another, see “Democrats overwhelmingly favor free college tuition, while Republicans are divided by age, education.”
Marketing Personalization: A Warning

If you are tempted by a siren call to explore and/or adopt personalization techniques in your marketing efforts, pause a moment to read the caveats listed in a Gartner report.

Personalization sounds fine. But in the real world, a key challenge is the ability to implement it in a meaningful way that increases marketing success. Impediments include limited ROI compared to the needed investment, restrictions on use of personal data, and too frequent email and mobile phone contacts that alienate the recipients.

More at “Gartner Predicts 80% of Marketers Will Abandon Personalization Efforts by 2025.
Transfer Student Inquiry Form: A 3-step Brevity Example

From a direct marketing perspective, the purpose of an inquiry from is to capture the info for a first contact with a possible future student. The shorter the form and the less personal info required at this start of a relationship, the more people who will complete the form.

University of Nevada Las Vegas understands.

At the top of the UNLV transfer student recruitment page is an inquiry form that asks only for first and last name and email address “to get more info.” That’s it. Not date of birth. Not gender. Not anything else.

Unbelievable? Visit “Transferring to UNLV.”
Email Marketing: An Audit Guide

We’re well past the time when people were writing that “email is deed.” But email evolves and it makes sense to review your efforts each year.

Jens Larson at Eastern Washington University offers an easy-to-follow email audit guide divided into 10 sections: List Management, Optimization, “From” Line, Subject Line, Pre-header, Header, Headline, Content, Footer, and Analysis: The Bare Minimum.

Print the list and start your audit at “Email Audit for colleges and universities.”
Keyword Research: 7 Free Tools to Boost Content Visibility

Allen Barysevich at the Content Marketing Institute is gifting us with references to 7 free tools of varying capabilities for identifying important keywords.

Skim the list (each with an explanation) starting with “Keyword Surfer” and ending with “Answer the Public” to find ones that are most useful to you in boosting content visibility.

Start at “7 Free Keyword Research Tools for Content Marketers.”
Most Popular Topic in February Newsletter: What do 349+ students think of direct marketing fishing expeditions?

What do high school students think about the agency-inspired mass market campaigns that bloom after each ACT/PreACT or SAT/PSAT test date?

“The emails are almost identical but come from different colleges so I’m guessing there’s one marketing company they all use to spam people with college board accounts.”

Alas, the link to this is no longer working.
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *